Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, born in Brooklyn, New York, is a self-described democratic socialist seeking the 2016 Democratic nomination. Previously an independent, he registered as a Democrat for the presidential race, putting him head-to-head with the establishment favorite, Secretary Hillary Clinton.
A Brooklyn native, he attended the University of Chicago, where he was an active member of the civil rights movement. After his graduation, he moved to his current home state of Vermont. In 1981, he was elected mayor of Burlington, beating the six-term incumbent by ten votes. As mayor, he crafted and carried initiatives in “affordable housing, progressive taxation, environmental protection, child care, women’s rights, youth programs, and the arts”, making the small city one of the most livable in America. Elected as Vermont’s only House Representative in 1990, he fought for progressive ideals and issues that impact working families. He was elected to the Senate in 2006, where he eventually became chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs. He was made the Democrats’ ranking caucus member on the Senate Budget Committee in 2015.
Senator Sanders is running for president under the label of democratic socialism. Initially considered a fringe candidate, he has proven himself as a real candidate and a possible threat to Secretary Hillary Clinton’s supposedly assured nomination. He is running primarily on issues that impact regular Americans, promising to take on the “billionaire class.” He has focused on income inequality, college affordability, campaign finance reform, raising the minimum wage, securing paid family leave, and combating climate change.
Senator Sanders’ successes are consistent with the general 2016 trend of “outsiders” gaining momentum due to frustration with the status quo. He is particularly popular among young people, with the younger Democratic bloc favoring him over Clinton by about 2-to-1. He has also brought about a national discussion about income inequality, the power of the mega-rich, and the merits of democratic socialism. Promising that the billionaire class would not like a Sanders presidency, he signs all of his campaign correspondence “in solidarity,” declaring that he is funded by Bernie 2016 (not the billionaires).